IN his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant has had countless memorable battles and rivalries against some legendary teams in his quest for NBA championship glory.
But on Monday (Tuesday, Manila time), Bryant tried to narrow down the long list and named five of the toughest squads he's faced in his remarkable career, as told to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Kobe’s top 5 toughest teams he played: Spurs in playoffs, Kings in early 2000's, Celtics in 08 Finals, Pistons in 04 Finals, Bulls w/ MJ— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 21, 2015
The Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls clearly left an indelible mark on a young Kobe Bryant, whose rookie year coincided with Chicago’s 72-10 season. Kobe has a split with Jordan's Bulls in four meetings.
With the dynamic tandem of Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant, the Lakers’ rise to power coincided with that of the upstart Kings behind a solid lineup of Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, and Mike Bibby. The young Lakers went toe-to-toe on several occasions with their neighbors from northern California, producing several memorable battles (remember Robert Horry’s buzzer-beating triple in the 2002 playoffs?).
Two seasons after their ‘Three-peat’ from 1999-2002, the Lakers tried to reload by signing future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton to bolster the Lakers roster. The aging lineup and shallow bench was exposed in the Finals by a scrappy Pistons team in five games.
Any team in the West knows that year in and year out, the San Antonio Spurs' ageless triumvirate of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker coached by the brilliant and irascible Gregg Popovich will always be a tough matchup in the postseason. Still, Kobe's Lakers have beaten the Spurs, 4-2, in six playoffs matchups with the most recent one held in 2008.
Acquiring Pau Gasol via a mid-season trade in 2008, the Lakers had enough talent to reach the NBA Finals but fell in six games against the Boston’s Big 3 composed of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Bryant’s first ever NBA MVP was small consolation after losing to their long-time rivals. The Lakers would bounce back the following season and won the next two championships, exacting revenge against the Celtics in 2010.